Honourable Artillery Company
In 1537, the Overseers of the Fraternity or Guild of St George received a Charter of Incorporation from King Henry VIII although there are some historical links to a remnant mercenary group who evolved from the Knights of Righteousness; long associated with the Dark Ages in Europe under Charlemange. The purpose of this Guild was to improve the defence of the realm and maintain the science and feat of shooting long bows, cross bows and hand guns. The Guild became known as 'the Gentleman of the Artillery Garden' after its practice ground in Spitalfields, then simply as 'the Artillery Company'. At this time 'artillery' referred to archery and other missile weapons, and 'great artillery' to guns. The courtesy prefix 'Honourable' was first used in 1685 and officially confirmed by Queen Victoria in 1860. The HAC moved from Spitalfields to its present site on City Road in 1641, Armoury House was built in 1735.
They were the home of professional gunnery until the formation of the first regular professional regiment, the Artillery Regiment, which then moved finally to Woolwich.
Traditionally they have recruited from all classes in the City of London, and this came to a head in the Civil War, where the Regt voted to split, and fight on the side of their choosing. A small home force was kept back to guard the location of Armoury House.
The HAC has a substantial (for a TA Regiment) ceremonial commitment - firing Gun Salutes at the Tower of London on State Occasions and finding a Guard of Honour at the Guildhall for visiting Heads of State. You will also see them in the Lord Mayor's Show, usually at the back somewhere near the REME truck and the dustcarts. Occasionally employed outside St Pauls Cathedral too, if there aren't enough traffic cones available to help the Royal Carriage park.
The Regiment has had individuals or sub-units on active service at all times since 1996 in a wide variety of roles in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. Commitments included the depoyment of patrols to Bosnia and Kosovo and independent sub-units to Operation Telic 4 and 5 in Iraq and L Troop to Operation Telic 9 in addition to individual and group reinforcements to other infantry and artillery units on Telic 1 and 3 and Herrick 7, 8 and 9 onwards...
On 4 Dec 07 Trooper Jack Sadler was killed when his vehicle was attacked north of Sangin, in Helmand province. Two other soldiers were injured in the attack.
The HAC own their own drill hall (Armoury House), like a 17th century stately home, and the castle building attached, Finsbury Barracks (they lease that bit to the Army - it's draughty and the roof leaks).
There are three parts to the HAC; the civilian side called the Company, a registered charity 'for the setting out of soldiers', which holds the titles to the land and buildings and the nicer half of the Brecon Beacons, the military side called the Regiment and a detachment of City of London Police Special Constables. The Regiment is made up of Squadrons:
The STA Squadrons
The three Squadrons consist of a sabre troop of patrol soldoers, a troop of ISTAR, and a Troop of Pre-Patrols soldiers. The Sabre troops provide Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) patrols which operate covert observation positions for extended periods, usually behind enemy lines - inserted by foot, vehicle, helicopter or boat. Their role is to gather and report target information and battlefield intelligence. A typical patrol comprises four to six soldiers, each of whom is trained to navigate, to operate covertly in hostile areas, to recognise a wide variety of military equipment and to communicate over long distances. (Communications support is provided by the Signal Squadron). Each patrol will also include a highly trained patrol medic.
The demanding role of the Patrol Squadrons requires individuals who are fit, strong, determined, able to use their own initiative and who are of above average intelligence. Above all, they must be mature individuals who are able to operate as part of a small, close knit team and who can shoulder the considerable responsibility that is required of even the most junior members of a patrol.
On joining the HAC regiment everyone without previous military experience must complete a Recruit's Course that brings them to a basic Trained Soldier standard. In order to join the Patrol Troops, however, it is necessary also successfully to complete the six-month long STA Patrol Selection Course (PSC). This is a physically and mentally demanding and arduous course that teaches the basics of STA patrol operations. It requires a great deal of determination and commitment to pass, but is extremely rewarding.
Having joined the Patrol Squadrons a patrol soldier typically completes a number of further training courses to improve their basic STA patrol skills and to gain promotion.
- 1, 2 and 3 Squadrons contain the 'sabre' troops, whose role is a very demanding and rare one. So rare that it is the ONLY reservist/part time unit in NATO to have the Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) role. This is a long range reconnaissance job, resulting in long periods of time being spent in Observation Posts (OPs), covertly, or mixed up with other troops in an overt OP. It is a very physically demanding job, with patrols carrying all of their food and water plus operationally specific equipment, on their backs, for up to three weeks.
The Signals Detachments
The Signals detachments in each STA Squadron provides the HAC with the sophisticated communications infrastructure it requires to perform its role. Primarily, this is the long-range radio network that enables the patrols to send and receive information.
The Signal detachments deploys to each of the STA Squadron HQ's, the Regimental Headquarters and any supported formations or HQs. Thus as a member of the Signal detachment you could find yourself working in a forward area, a Corps or Divisional HQ or even in a main base station over a thousand miles from where the patrols are deployed.
On joining the HAC everyone must complete a Recruits' Course that brings them to a basic Trained Soldier standard. Having completed this, all potential HAC soldiers are obliged to do the very first part of the Patrol Selection Course as this gives them an understanding of the core role of the regiment - whatever career path they then choose. However, if at that stage they choose to join the Signal detachment, they will have successfully to complete a RA Communications Course (RAComms2). As well as the technical skills required to operate long-range communications systems, Signal detachment personnel are taught how to conduct site reconnaissance, how to conceal and defend their operating bases and they are equipped with the off-road driving and vehicle maintenance skills necessary to keep them mobile.
The physical and mental requirements of the Signal detachment are different from those of the Patrol Troops, but they look for intelligent, organised people who can work under considerable pressure. As communications equipment becomes more sophisticated, personnel with a technical, electronics or IT background are increasingly useful.
The Liaison Troop provides support teams for Liaison Officers. As a member of the Liaison Troop you may find yourself working on a range of tasks either within the HAC structure or from a Corps or Divisional HQ. Teams of 4-5 troops, operating from one or two vehicles depending on the threat and the environment, provide security and communication support to their assigned Liaison Officer.
On joining the HAC everyone must complete a Recruits' Course that brings them to a basic Trained Soldier standard. In order to join the Liaison Troop, however, it is also necessary to successfully to complete the six month Basic Communications Course (BCC). Once in the Liaison Troop you will receive in a series of additional training ranging from cross-country driving to tactical targeting.
In 2007, L Troop was disbanded and the role merged with the Corps of Drums.
HQ Squadron is possibly the most varied of the HAC's sub-units. It exists to provide the regiment with the command, logistic and administrative support that enables the Patrol and Signal elements to do their job. The squadron needs a wide range of skills for its functions; including clerks, vehicle and electrical mechanics, HGV drivers, logisticians, intelligence specialists, chefs and medical personnel. The Corps of Drums is also part of HQ Squadron.
Many of HQ Squadron's personnel have served previously in the Patrol or Signal units, but as many are direct entrants who spend their whole HAC careers in the squadron. Because of the skills needed in HQ Squadron it is particularly suitable for older and more experienced soldiers with previous service in other units who would like to join the HAC.
Although HQ Squadron is possibly the most diverse sub-unit, its personnel regularly train together as a squadron.
- The Training Wing (Part of HQ Sqn) provides the infrastructure for all internally run courses. The HAC is one of the few units still authorised to train its own Phase 1, 2 and 3 soldiers in order to train them up to and beyond the basic reserves training standard in order to prepare them for the subsequent arduous Phase 3 course (PSC).
The Corps of Drums
The Corps of Drums plays a very active role in regimental life, and throughout the year performs at numerous ceremonial events. However, as well as being trained in musical and ceremonial skills, all the members of the Corps train as infantry soldiers and have an operational role providing manpower to support the Regiment. In war the Corps would provide security for Squadron and Regimental HQ units. Membership of the Corps ensures that, for a single role, you will experience the greatest variety of training in the regiment - from learning how to play a musical instrument to completing professional courses at the School of Infantry. Entry to the Corps is via the Recruits' Course. No special qualifications are required, further military and musical training relevant to the role is conducted in house. The Corps conducts both its own unique training and works alongside the patrol squadrons.
Currently a sub-unit of HQ Squadron where they are more often deployed as FP or as Signallers until Endex at which point the GPMGs need cleaning and everyone else has something more important to do. You fire 'em, we'll clean 'em. Would you like a song with that?
The Regimental Band
The Band is one of the most professional and well know Territorial Army Bands. The Band (along with the Corps of Drums) makes a substantial contribution to meeting the Regiment's Ceremonial Commitments. As well as marching detachments at public events, The Band has a busy programme of playing at private events, such as Regimental dinners. Members of the Band are professional musicians and have an operational role providing manpower support to Headquarters Squadron.
Recruiting nights are held on the first Tuesday of every month. The recruiting office can be contacted at:
The Honourable Artillery Company
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7448 0703
Traditionally, everyone joined as a Trooper (Private), regardless of previous military service, however, there are now a few new faces around who have somehow transferred in and kept their commissions.
The Recruit Selection Day
The recruit selection day is likely to be your introduction to HAC life. They are held twice a year, in March or April and October; usually at the HAC's barracks and grounds. The day comprises a series of "command tasks" (practical problem solving and teamwork tests), some physical activity (including a run, gym tests), presentations about life in the regiment.
The HAC soldiers will be casting a cold eye over any potential recruit to judge whether you have the potential to make it through the Recruits' Course and ultimatly the Patrol Selection Course - and to provide an opportunity for you to meet members of the regiment and find out at first hand what they think of the HAC.
The day is designed to be a physically active one - and at some stage you will be either sweaty, stressed, exhausted or all three - but almost everybody comes away from the day having had a thoroughly enjoyable time.
The Recruits Course
If we both like what we see on the assessment weekend, and if you have no prior military experience, the first stage is to complete the HAC Recruits' Course. This lasts six months; Tuesday evenings, about one weekend a month and a ten-day final exercise.
The Recruits' Course teaches you the very basics of being an infantry soldier - though to prepare people for the Patrol Selection Course the course also concentrates quite hard on fitness and navigation training. You will be taught the basics of living and operating in the field, weapon handling, drill, basic communications - all skills you will need to reach "Trained Soldier" standard. The course is challenging but most people find that it is great fun. Every course has a strong sense of camaraderie, and you will find yourself making friends that you will keep for life.
Once you have completed an in-house 6 month recruits course you would then be sent on to trade training; either as a signaller, or as a patrol soldier for another six months. Then you would join a squadron.
The Patrol Selection Course
Having completed the Recruits' Course, to become a member of a Patrol Squadron it is necessary successfully to complete the Patrol Selection Course (PSC). If you have relevant previous military experience, it may be possible to start the PSC without having first completed the Recruits' course. This six month long course is designed both to teach the basic skills required of a Surveillance and Target Acquisition patrol soldier and to assess the suitability of candidates for service with the Patrol Squadrons. Among the subjects taught during the course are:
- Advanced navigation
- First aid
- Close quarter battle skills
- Foreign equipment recognition
- Observation post construction, operation and routine
- Long range communications
The course incorporates a number of physical and skills tests that must be passed to proceed to the Patrol Squadrons; these include swimming tests, navigation tests, long distance marches over arduous terrain carrying heavy loads, and a demanding ten day final exercise during which proficiency in all the skills taught will be assessed.
The Patrol Selection Course is one of the most physically and mentally demanding courses run by the Army, as befits the nature of the role of an STA patrol. The PSC is a selection course, and not everyone will make the grade. It requires a great deal of determination and commitment to complete, but to do so is extremely rewarding. If for some reason a candidate does not complete the course, it can be retaken, or they can choose to transfer to one of the regiment's other sub-units.
Part of the six month patrol training is the "Brecon March". 45kms in 13 hours with 55lb in your bergen over the Brecon Beacons.
Their motto is ARMA PACIS FULCRA.(Arms are the Balance of Peace.)
Also the Army's 4th commissioning centre, they can hand out commissions to those who can go no further in the ranks or for any other reason, ask pd in effect about this!
- Raikes (2 distinct editions)
- "The HAC in the Great War" S. Goold Walker 1930 (reprint 1986)
- Gould Walker (2 distinct editions, 1928/46 ?)
- Fire Eater; The Memoirs of a VC - biography of Captain A. O. Pollard, VC, MC, DCM
- OVER THE TOP. A "P.B.I." in the H.A.C (a/biog Arthur Lambert)
- A History of 'C' Battery HAC in War & Peace
History from Regiments.org website